McDonald's Franchisees Send Teen with Autism His Favorite Cookies During Pandemic: 'This Was Huge'
The Horner brothers also gifted Francine Mundt a new oven after hers broke so she could bake the cookies for her son
The owners of a Southern California McDonald's franchise recently went out of their way to help a teen with autism and his single mother obtain their chocolate chip cookies after the local restaurants stopped selling them amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only did Francine Mundt and her 18-year-old son Logan receive over five dozen cookies to bake at home from Brad, Todd and David Horner, but the franchisee brothers also ensured the Huntington Beach family had a way to make them by replacing her broken oven.
"With everything going on — the stay-at-home orders and stress levels getting higher — I was beyond shocked that someone who didn’t know me and had no reason to go out of his way for me did," Francine, 48, tells PEOPLE. "The feeling is incredible."
"Because of those silly cookies, we were going through some really dangerous times," adds Francine, who became a stay-at-home mom and homeschools her son, partly due to his occasional violent outbursts. "Something as simple as bringing cookies to my house, that alone will make a huge difference in our daily lives."
Ever since he was able to eat solid food, Francine says Logan has had a limited diet solely comprised of beige-colored foods. At the top of that list are French fries, chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookies from McDonald's.
"McDonald's is his No. 1," she explains. "We'd drive through every day on his way to school and now, of course, we do Uber Eats delivery. Always. It's a staple. If we forget the cookies on a drive-thru, we're going back. There's no doubt."
But Francine and Logan's routine was recently interrupted when the COVID-19 outbreak caused the McDonald's in their area to temporarily stop selling chocolate chip cookies. With Logan upset, Francine attempted to solve the problem herself on April 10.
"I called the head office, totally feeling like a moron, because who calls about cookies?" she recalls. "I was apologetic, saying, 'I know this sounds ridiculous, please don't judge me. I know your cookies aren't available right now, but I just wanted to find out when you think they might be.'"
"With Logan, to keep him cool and calm, everything has to have a schedule," Francine continues, noting that she keeps a laminated calendar with photos of items on it. "Once I do that, he's chill. He knows he can hold it and see, 'Okay, next month on the 18th or whatever date, McDonald's cookies.'"
The mom of two ended up giving her contact information to office manager Lisa Molina but assumed nothing would come of their conversation. In the meantime, she went online and looked up ways to recreate McDonald's cookies, because if she tried to give him some from other brands, "he would know the difference in a heartbeat."
On April 15, Francine unexpectedly received a phone call from Brad — who owns multiple McDonald's restaurants across Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties with his brothers, father, and uncle. Brad asked how he could help.
"You could tell he had a vested interest in learning more," recalls Francine. "He was amazing."
Brad, 40, says helping Francine was a no-brainer.
"When we heard Francine's story, David and I both immediately — unbeknownst to each other — contacted Aryzta, McDonald's supplier partner. They have a bakery here in Orange County. We didn't give it a second thought," Brad explains. "It just felt like the right thing to do. We saw someone who seemed like she could use a break and we wanted to do our part to help."
And that's exactly what they did. During their conversation, Brad offered to come to Francine's home with David, 43, and Todd, 37, and personally deliver the cookies — which he explained would come frozen in packs of 36 and could be baked in an oven.
"From one of my conversations with Francine, I got the impression that loading the kids in the car and running a quick errand is not as easy as it seems when you have a child with autism," Brad says of his offer. "This is why I offered to deliver them... it never occurred to me to send them any other way."
Elated over the kind gesture, Francine asked if the cookies would also bake in a convection oven since her gas oven and stove had recently stopped working. Brad told her yes, but he later secretly looked into how he could do more for Francine.
He and his brothers ultimately ended up purchasing a new oven for Francine, which they arranged to be delivered and installed, and then relayed the good news on April 17, ahead of their in-person meeting.
"I went, 'Oh my God!' I was shaking. I couldn’t believe it," Francine recalls. "It couldn’t have come at a better time with my life at the moment. This was huge."
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On April 22, Brad, David, and Todd showed up to Francine's home with the cookies and met the family.
Although Logan is mostly non-verbal, he says the kind gesture made him “happy" and the cookies were "good."
In the days following their sweet encounter, Francine — whose 19-year-old son, Hunter, has high-functioning autism — says she has been giving back to the Horner brothers by providing suggestions about how they can make their restaurants more accessible and inclusive for teens and adults with autism.
Though they are in the very early stages, everything from a quiet seating area and printed picture menu to employee training programs have been discussed.
Francine notes she will forever be grateful to the Horner brothers for their efforts.
"These guys are running the biggest restaurant chain in the world and they want to make these changes," she says. "It makes me so happy and so thankful, and shows me we’re moving in the right direction and how far we’ve come with autism awareness and acceptance."
But for Brad, their reason for helping out is simple: "You never know what people are going through, or when you have a chance to help make someone’s day," he says. "Also, people need to eat more cookies."